is concerned with encouraging a struggling congregation to stand firm, endure
and persevere. Wendell Berry refers to the "art
of the commonplace," a phrase that for pastors brings to mind the art,
craft and skills by which we cultivate the common everyday life our people are
called to live and share--and which will enable them to stand firm. It is about
the mundane and about community.
It was the spring of 1963 in Birmingham, and it looked as if the civil
rights movement would suffer yet another defeat. The powers that be had
more jail space than the civil rights workers had people. But then one
Sunday, reports historian Taylor Branch, 2,000 young people came out of
worship at the New Pilgrim Baptist Church and prepared to march.
The promise of Isaiah 65 is that God is doing a new thing. There will be a new creation: a new heaven and a new earth. In this new dispensation things are going to change big time. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” No longer must one consume another to survive in this new world.
During almost 20 years of pastoral ministry I have served three
different congregations that experienced such long-term decline and
loss that it seemed as if the “end of the world” was upon us: they had
lost recognition in the community, members, ministries and their
passion for mission. But the loss that was talked about most often was
the loss of financial resources.
In the beyond, in the dream, on the mountaintop, in the joy made flesh—not in the flesh still longing—is where I want to dwell. I long to be in the “new heavens and a new earth” where “former things shall not be remembered or come to mind,” as Isaiah puts it. Give me that.